Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Food

Eating in the Raw

We’re trying something new… new year, new habits, new ideas… it’s a good time for that kind of thing. I figure since the world is apparently ending in a little less than a year, it’s time to make some (good) things happen, right?

A few months ago, my Loverly Husband decided that he wanted to do this ‘forage’ style meal plan. It’s not a full-on ‘raw foods‘ or vegan/vegetarian thing, but similar – more low-key than that, really. It’s more about simplicity than it is about buying into the ‘lifestyle’ that is usually (albeit stereotypically) associated with such a diet. His idea includes no meal planning, just having fresh foods on-hand to consume quickly and as easily as possible whenever hunger strikes.

Now, if you know anything about me from reading here, I can imagine that one of the things that jumps out at you is my penchant for planning all things with zero moderation. My Loverly Husband, who has known me since Kindergarten, could not possibly have failed to notice this trait, and yet somehow thought that I would be just dandy with it. Not.

Well, that was a few months ago, and I have to admit that the idea has grown on me. We’ve always kept kid-friendly foods on hand and the boys have been fixing their own breakfast most of the time for years now. To carry this trend over into lunch and dinner isn’t that much of a stretch, practically speaking. Admittedly, this laissez-faire,  go-with-the-flow attitude might have something to do with my current/new-again-as-of-yesterday medication, which has blessedly made my previously over-stressed state a thing of that past, but whatever the reason, I really have gotten on-board with the whole idea.

I admit that the simplistic aspect appeals, but so does the idea that such a diet would lend aid towards health and weight-loss endeavors. As we launch into a new year, I once again have all these aspirations of weight loss and exercise; maybe putting a diet/lifestyle into place that supports those goals will create a whirlpool of success? In any case, I put on my Optimism Hat and tried to figure out how I can satisfy my own need to over-plan and still follow this simple idea.

Upon scavenging Pinterest for ideas, I discovered that there are literally hundreds of recipes out there for raw/vegan approximations of foods we normally eat (minus the meat and cooking, of course). Since we’re not going all out vegan, I think that small changes here and there with an eye towards that as a goal will be easier to accomplish and less traumatic, gastronomically speaking. Following a recipe does require some planning though, so I think it’s possible to satisfy my need to plan while still meeting the raw/vegetarian-ish goals.

And so it was that I decided that starting today, when I go grocery shopping this afternoon, it will be with the following goals in mind:

  • stay in the produce section as much as possible
  • plan on whatever actual cooking to be done is vegan-ish (with the exception of perpetual soup/bone broth which is going on to cook this afternoon)
  • to refrain from being tempted by processed foods and junk
  • keep the basket filled with only what can be consumed by the four of us in the course of a few days (this will be a challenge because I am used to planning and shopping for two weeks at a time)
I also found a few links that are for beginners to the raw foods lifestyle that I found to be helpful rather than ‘preachy': Raw Food Diet for the Beginner and Starting A Raw Food Diet. I also found a fantastic blog called Smaller Sarah in which she shows her pantry and fridge before and after shots. I’m impressed and amazed at the neatness of the pantry and the lovely baskets full of yummy cold fresh foods. I want my fridge to look like that! I would take pictures of the befores now, but I am embarrassed to show you my fridge and after the holidays and a week’s vacation for my Loverly Husband, my pantry is in similar disrepair. But I may update this post with after pictures.

We start school again next week. Wish me luck!

Warmly,
~h

P.S. It occurs to me after looking over my list that it’s not terribly ‘vegan/vegetarian’. But considering that virtually every meal for the past.. all of eternity has revolved around whatever meat-main-course and my current shopping list contains ‘2 whole chickens’ instead of 10-12 meats for four, I’m calling that progress.

P.P.S. And in case you were wondering, I am not one of those ‘save the animals’ PETA people. I fall more on the ‘meat is tasty murder’ side of the fence, supported by the presence of both canine teeth (for ripping, shredding) and molars (for grinding and mashing) in humans, which (to me) indicate that humans are omnivores and therefore are designed to consume flesh.


Pick-up Stix

Once upon a time, there was this awesome Blogging Goddess. She promptly updated her blog after every significant and/or picture-worthy event, and was especially diligent about writing and sharing holiday-related blog posts.

….. Aaaaaaaad *clearly*, we’re not talking about me, here. {wink} We now join our fair Minor Blogging Deity Slacker Blogger a week after Halloween to re-cap the newsworthy events of the past week.

Much as I wish I could say that there haven’t been any, there has, and as much as I wish I could say these events aren’t newsworthy, they are. But first, let me sprinkle some holiday cheer (umm…er… cobwebs?)

I may have mentioned before that I was raised in a religion that does not celebrate holidays. Being the somewhat gothy chick that I am, anything dark and mysterious and/or creepy and spooky has always attracted my interest, and Halloween in particular has always held intense fascination for me. Now that I’m all grown up with kids of my own, I’m able to indulge myself in all the fancy fun that is decorating, making creepy food and dressing up.

We had a small gathering of friends over last weekend to celebrate; grown-ups and kids. This was our first holiday party to host, so it was very exciting. We had a full house ( a mad house, I tell ya!) and everyone had a pretty good time, I think. The kids spent a great deal of time outside waiting for new guests to arrive so they could pop out and scare them, then playing chase and hide and seek in the dark. We kept the adults warm and conversation flowing with sangria and party games, with the occasional child running through the house (often yelling). We wrapped up the evening close to the witching hour with poker and Rock Band. Since we don’t often have many guests over at one time, this was a lot of fun!

Last year, my awesome peeps came over to my house and we crafted Halloween trees from branches, tall glass containers, rocks from the yard, scrapbook paper, Mod Podge and spray paint. They turned out really well, so I decided to keep mine for further holiday use. I kept up with it until Easter-ish of this year, then packed the tree away… it’s back out again (complete with the orange eggs from Easter, even) with spooky decorations. As of this moment, it’s still on the table (de-Halloween’d) and waiting for a new craft. I’m thinking fall leaves made out of coffee filters and watercolors and the ‘thankful’ leaves that we put on a paper tree last year…. stay tuned for pictures!

The kids’ little pumpkins are also still on the table – we’re considering making pies. I’ve never made pies from real pumpkins before, so this should be interesting!

A Pinterest find… Chocolate cupcakes with white icing and sugar glass with syrup blood… the pictures really don’t do them justice! We also attempted to carve faces in apples for shrunken heads to float in the bloody sangria (Apothic Red wine, cran-strawberry juice and sprite with berry jello ‘globs’ for blood clots. It was disgustawesome.), but only managed two, and they were… not so great. I plan to practice my apple-carving skillz in the coming year and try again next year.

Kids’ costumes: PeaGreen is the Green KNight from Castle Crashers (video game) and LBB is ‘a ghost named Scream’. He’s never seen the movies (that I know of) and it occurs to me that this is the third year in a row that he’s dressed as a serial killer. There was Jason, then Grim Reaper, and now Scream… we banned weapons for the future at Halloween this year, so hopefully next year he will plan his costume based on something other than the weapon said character carries.

And this is my costume… well, part of it. I saw this video by Klaire de Lys for ripped nails and thought they’d make excellent zombie or fresh-from-the-coffin-baby-vamp nails. Considering that I am a huge fan of Vampire and Z-pocalypse themed anything, I figured I should take notes. Notes turned into a trial run, and my trial run turned into fabu, which, doing the math, = pictures. So, yay! I only did one hand and posted the picture to Facebook to gauge effectiveness and am quite happy to report that this method of nail-crafting does, indeed, elicit the expected sympathetic and/or grossed out responses! I did both hands for Halloween (after all the food was prepared, naturally) and again – lots of positive feedback (which, in this case includes comments like, ‘sick’, ‘so real looking’, ‘gross’, ‘nasty’ and ‘that’s seriously making me ill’.) {does happy dance}

In other news, we’re a mere four weeks away from being DONE with our second year of homeschooling!

{fanfare}

You can expect a countdown from here on out, pretty much. While most people are finally settled into their year, ours is winding down. I am debating the wisdom of doing less academic related stuff and more crafting/holiday related stuff, but I think we can probably work both in. We’ll have off the last 3 weeks of December before we start the new year in January; I’ll be planning next year’s schedule in the near future as well.

We’re currently in the middle of Peter and the Starcatchers (with two more books in the series on the table waiting to be read) and about to start a Thanksgiving unit study and lapbook. I’m working without a printer at the moment (am considering inventing a printer that runs on blood; it would be cheaper than buying ink/toner), so I will be putting all of my craftiness into making a lapbook without a printer. We’re going to use collage and notebooking, so it will look quite different from our previous lapbook samples, but still fun, I hope. Combined with the Yule lapbook that we started on but never finished last year, that’s quite a bit of crafty stuff in and of itself.

So that’s pretty much it. I have more to say, but will post again tomorrow.

Warmly,

~h

*post title has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this post. It was just a word that sounded fun in my mouth and so now it’s the title of this post.


Enjoying the Autumn Weather

We had our first cool front come through last week – a much needed, much appreciated cool front. It’s been unbelievably hot this summer, and even though I say that every year, this summer really has set records. I’m not an outdoors-y type most of the time, but between the swarm of love-bugs that have finally left town (or died out – whatever) and the unrelenting heat, this first taste of cooler weather made me positively antsy to be outside.

We packed up the kids’ remaining school work one day last week and went out to one of our local state parks to enjoy the cooler weather. It was actually quite a bit cooler than we’d thought when we left the house; several times, I had the kids run around the pavilion we were sitting at to warm up. We did nearly get carried away by mosquitoes; normally those nasty little bloodsuckers fade away once the weather turns, but maybe the woods offered some shelter because even with the cooler air, they were out in droves. Yay for bug spray!

When we got home, in keeping with the autumn atmosphere, we made caramels. This is my new favorite thing ever: MICROWAVE caramels. Yes. Microwave. You just mix everything in a big Pyrex bowl and throw them in there, stir occasionally and in six minutes, you have  lovely and brown and bubbly and smooth and creamy caramel… and with a tiny sprinkling of flaked salt on top, they’re oh, so very tasty!

The recipe is from Food Network, but I found it on Pinterest.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Cook 6 minutes, stirring every two minutes.
  3. Stir and pour into lightly greased dish.
  4. Let cool.
  5. Cut, wrap in wax paper & store in air tight container.

I didn’t have brown sugar, so I used a 1/2 cup of white sugar with a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. I didn’t have Karo, so I used a 1/2 cup of white sugar with 2 teaspoons of water (stirred to dissolve the sugar). The caramels didn’t quite set up the way they should have, but they taste fantastic. One day, I’ll buy the other ingredients and make the actual recipe… maybe. My version is more like a thick caramel sauce and is amazing in coffee and over ice cream, in case you were wondering.

Hope you’re celebrating fall with hot cocoa every morning!

Warmly,

~h


Calling School on Account of Blahs

One of the many, many things that I love about homeschooling is the flexibility. We’ve reached the middle of the week and after a couple of days of ‘phoning it in’, I am calling school on account of blahs.

I am not ‘sick’, but I feel kinda… meh, and I know I am not giving them my best. It’s not that it’s been a ‘bad’ week; things have been fine. But the kids are just doing the work to get it done, rather than doing any real ‘learning’, so instead of continuing to push, I think it makes more sense to spend a couple of days getting over whatever this is we seem to have and begin again next week.

Intellectually, I know that breaks are beneficial. Not pushing when your heart’s not in it; actually stopping to re-group and rediscover your joy in homeschooling is necessary. It’s something that I’ve said and read over and over again, and yet still I occasionally find myself battling the ‘get it done’ mindset.

We’re not bound by anyone else’s rules or policies. We have no one but ourselves to report to or satisfy, and we’re not disrupting a carefully crafted time-table to put off today’s plan in favor of something that fits better. I purposefully designed our school schedule so that there would be enough school days built-in so that we could take breaks where needed. But still, there is the lingering feeling that ‘today is a school day’ and so we ‘must’ get XYZ finished. Silly, I know. Perhaps Mommy needs some de-schooling today. {wink}

In any case, it’s 9:45 and the kids are still in their rooms. They’re not asleep; I can hear them chattering and laughing. I am thinking brunch, chores and then grocery store for hot chocolate and coconut milk to make coconut whipped cream. Then, I think we might scour the KidCraft Pinterest board for something awesome to do this afternoon. Yeah. That’s a good plan.

Warmly,

~h


Swimming, Lacto-fermented Marmalade and a Nurse In at the Zoo

Happy Labor Day! Well… belated Labor Day, anyway. We spent the weekend chillaxin’ at home, mostly without kids and occasionally without power. We did have some much-needed rain though and a very much appreciated cool front come through, so even without power, I am not complaining much.

We did finally get our pool fixed, so half the weekend was spent enjoying the suddenly icy-cold water.

Tuesday is our homeschool group’s regularly scheduled field trip day. Each week, we get together fo an activity with the kids. This week, we hit the Houston Zoo. They have free admission on the first Tuesday of the month after 2PM, so we go out every few months. SFK (who promises me that she’s going to blog again one day…) and I usually ride out together (because car-pooling is both fun and eco-friendly) and since we were going to be in the Houston area anyway, we made plans with a friend of ours for lunch before our rendezvous at the zoo with the rest of our group.

This is our friend Nicole . She’s a doula, childbirth educator and massage therapist in the Houston area and SFK swears by her magic hands! If you’re pregnant or have pregnant friends in the Houston area, definitely give her a call. Her website is EarthBirthMom and her blog is here. She was making lacto-fermented goodness, marmalade and hummus in this case with plans to make lemonade and ginger carrots in the near future.

Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria. This produces not only a tangy, delicious product, but it also preserves it. There are tons of health benefits from eating fermented foods as well. The book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon says,

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

I haven’t tried fermenting foods yet, but it’s definitely on my radar of soon-to-be-realized projects!

We hit the zoo after lunch. Last time we were here, it was super crowded. Now that school’s back in session, it was really nice – lots of room, even in the more crowded areas of the park. PeaGreen hung out with me most of the day while LBB took off with SFK and her girls. He’s gotten camera-shy all of the sudden, so I didn’t get many snapshots of him – and none that were clear.

The zoo really turned into a group affair. Our local breastfeeding coalition caught wind of a recent breastfeeding related story in the news. After contacting the zoo, the BBC arranged a ‘thank you nurse in‘ to show their support for the way that the zoo’s management handled the situation and present them with a breastfeeding friendly certificate. Their photographer was supposed to snap a few shots of the group, but was uncomfortable photographing nursing mothers, so I snagged a shot and some of the other supporters did as well.

We had 11 moms with babes-in-arms, plus 4 more moms with kids there to support them. We also ran into another homeschooling group that we do stuff with later in the afternoon. It was a really good day at the zoo!

The Museum of Natural Science also has free admission to the main gallery on Tuesdays after 2PM and normally we try to go over there as well, but this time we had such an awesome day at the zoo that we stayed later than usual. We didn’t get a group shot, but we had such a good time that I think it’ll be a strong memory.

How’d you spend your Labor Day this year?

Warmly,
~h


Proof that Children DO eat Bugs

 

Fried crickets and meal worms. Who said Summer Reading Club was boring?

Warmly,

~h


Rabbit, Rabbit – Happy Chinese New Year!

Our homeschool group got together today for a Chinese New Year party and parade. The first day of Chinese New Year was actually last week on the 3rd, but it is celebrated for 15 days and so lasts through the 17th. We’d planned on a parade last week for our regularly scheduled park day, but the weather was being nasty so we rescheduled and combined our parade with our co-op class. We took the kids on a costumed walk through the neighborhood and got quite a few interesting looks from passers-by. I often wonder what people must be thinking when we take our kids out in a group, especially when they’re doing something ‘odd’. They had fun though, so who cares what other people think, right?

Holidays are always interesting for me; over the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned as much about CNY as the kids have. I grew up in a faith that didn’t celebrate holidays, so the whole business is a lot of fun for me. I always have to go read up on the ‘how-to’ for holidays. I did find a good ‘about CNY’ page at Kiddy House:

FIRST DAY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR

  • All debts have to be repaid by this time. There should also be no lending on this day as it is believed that it will put you in debt for the whole year.
  • Foul language or curse words and words that are supposed to be unlucky or sound unlucky should not be uttered.
  • Children also get away with their misbehaviour on this day. Parents do not want to upset their children or make them cry as crying on New Year’s Day is considered unlucky.
  • It is advisable to start the day off by consuming a bowl of sweet dessert called “tong sui” (sugary drink) in Cantonese. It symbolises starting the year off sweet and pleasant.
  • The children will greet their parents and adults : Gong Hei Fatt Choy (in Cantonese)Gong Xi Fa Cai (in Mandarin)Keong Hee Huat Chai (in Hokkien) The meaning of “Gong Xi” is congratulations while “Fa Cai” means be rich or prosperous. All the above have the same meaning. They only sound different.
  • New clothes and shoes are a must for Chinese New Year.
  • The younger generation will go visit their elder relatives and friends too. Married couples, will have to give a red packet called “Hong Pow” containing money inside to those who are not married and also to their parents.
  • The hosts will serve their guests all kinds of cookies and the Mandarin Orange. The Mandarin Orange is a symbol of prosperity.

We didn’t do much of this, but seeing what people do and why is always neat. It’s all in good fun around our house, but I find it fascinating that for some families this is serious business, especially in a historical context. The tradition of firecrackers for CNY celebrations comes from the Legend of Nian, and the Dragon Dance also has a long and complicated history. It’s been interesting to read about and see the ways that history and legend affect local customs, how they change over time and how they’re interpreted today.

When I was looking up CNY activities, I found a bunch of ideas and since we still have time left for the official celebration, we’ll probably still do a lapbook on China at some point this coming week. Here are some of the links that I’ll pull from to make our lapbook:

We learned that gifts of money are also traditional on CNY, presented in a red envelope. Activity Village has a template for red envelopes, or you can find a template with history and additional customs at Feng Shui Web. We substituted well wishes for the coming year and made one for all the kids that were at co-op today. Our hostess made a ribbon with feet and a tail to go on the kids’ masks to clip their red envelopes to; we hung them over the boys’ desks in the school room this evening.

When we were planning our parade, the moms in our group discussed going all-out and collaborating on a big dragon, but that was clearly way more work than we were looking for. Based on previous experience, what would happen is that the moms would end up doing all the work and the kids would trash it within the first 5 minutes of having ‘fun’ with it. Still, the idea of having our own giant dragon costume is intriguing. I’d planned on making smaller papier-mache/egg carton dragon puppets, but we didn’t get to that, either. We still might make one (or two), and if you’re feeling super crafty, here are some of the links I found; the egg carton dragon and ThatArtistWoman’s Dragon Puppet.

I also found a picture of kids with streamers on their arms and a dragon mask, and that’s what we actually ended up doing today for the parade. We printed out these masks, then colored them with markers and pasted them on colored paper for added strength, then cut and put ties on them. That worked out very well; the kids looked great with their streamers flying behind them as they paraded!

A few weeks ago, I found an offer for free Chinese New Year materials from Panda Express (I think it’s over now, but you can still see most of the material here) and ordered a kit for our group. One of the nifty things about being in a homeschool group is that in some settings, our group functions as a school so we can get materials that we might not have access to as an individual homeschooling family even though in Texas, each homeschool is considered a private school. The kit had a video that had some bite-sized info-bytes about Chinese culture and some of the history and customs associated with CNY, and as you might expect, a big ole advertisement for Panda Express. However, considering that the materials kit was free and they sent coupons for free kids meals as lai see, I guess I can live with that. The narrator did talk about traditional foods and their meanings and there was an activity guide, so the kids (well, the girls) got to make couple of little craft projects. They made paper lanterns (these are pretty, too) and the boys and I made party poppers as favors to hand out.

I found a link for felt fortune cookies, which would be cute for a kids’ kitchen. I also found a recipe for them as well, but I can’t honestly say that I’m interested in making them. Cooking is so not my forte, but maybe one day we’ll get around to attempting them. We did have a lovely Chinese-themed potluck lunch buffet, and a fabulous yin-yang cake made with tinted black chocolate frosting and marshmallows. The kids all thought that the cake was awesome. If you’ve never made Chinese food at home, give it a try. Even without traditional cookware, it’s easy and so very tasty! Then, you can make dessert… good fortune cupcakesmandarin orange muffins (which might also be good for breakfast).

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be peaceful and quiet following the Year of the Tiger, so with that in mind, may your year be restful and unhurried, with good taste and refinement shining on all your endeavors!

Warmly,

~h


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